C: I've been staying here with Dan for the last two weeks.
Q: So technically you're not living together?
C: Well, I'm always here. I'm barely ever home.
Q: Sounds as if you have an uneasy truce.
D: An uneasy truce is a good description. They don't know everything about her day-to-day life. They realize she's an adult, so she's got her own space. She does go back home several times a week. But her mom hasn't been too nosy.
Q: Is she Filipino?
D: She's half French, half Filipino.
Q: Do they have a different attitude toward this kind of thing?
C: Filipinos are very strict. They want couples to stay within their culture and age [group].
D: So there's two barriers. But culturally speaking, she's an average person. I mean, she was born here and she doesn't really have to abide by the Filipino rules.
Q: How did your friends react, Chris?
C: They were, like, "You like the guy, go for it."
Q: And yours, Dan?
D: The guys are pretty casual about it, but the girls are kind of shocked. Everybody's nice enough, because Chris is so sweet, but my ex-wife looked at me and her exact words were that I was a pedophile. Chris does look like she's 15 or 16, but she's not [that young] mentally. She's got a lot of life experience for someone in their twenties. I could never look at a child and have the feelings that I have for her. I was a perfect gentleman, and we discussed things. It's not like I approached some kid in a schoolyard, which is what went through my head when [my ex-wife] called me a pedophile -- that really hurt.
Q: Have strangers said, "You have a lovely daughter," or asked, "Is that your daughter?"
D: Yes, my boss. He came into the office one day, and I had her picture up on the desk, and he said, "Oh, is that your daughter?" We get interesting reactions. When we started being close in public, we were more comfortable with her holding my arm rather than holding my hand.
C: One time someone said, "Gee, he's holding his daughter's hand."
D: There's been other times where they'll give me a dirty look. We were at the Padres game, and she was sitting on my lap some of the time. There were two couples on either side of us. One couple's reaction was not so good, but with the other couple, the girl was kind of smiling at me. After the game was over, I leaned over and said, "Age is nothing but a number." And she said, "My boyfriend is much older than me." She was smiling because she understood. She was looking and appreciating the relationship rather than judging.
Q: Are there any differences having to do with age that are particularly noticeable?
C: Now you're going to make me think. [Laughs.] I can't think of any.
D: Really, we don't have a lot. I stay pretty current on music and movies and such. I mean, I don't try and walk and talk like I'm 20. That's ridiculous. But I do connect on a much younger level. Chris is only 21, so there are some things she hasn't experienced yet. But that's not a bad thing. It's more of an openness to learn new things, an innocence. Actually, it's quite attractive.
Q: So what is it about people your age that makes them unsuitable as romantic partners?
C: They act too immature. I don't need that in my life. And they're all into drama.
Q: Have you played "When I'm x-age, you'll be y"?
D: Of course. I was graduating San Diego State with my first degree when she was born. So, yes, we've played that game.
Q: What do you take from those conversations? Live for today? Don't think about it? Men age better than women?
D: I've been the one to say things like, "I'm going to be having arthritis by the time you're getting to the peak of your youthfulness." And she says, "Oh, come on, it's not going to be like that. You're too young and vital." So I just tell myself, to hell with it, I'll live for the moment. I think about it more than she does, but as long as I'm enjoying myself now and we're having a nice relationship and she's sweet to me, what more do I need? If one day she decides that she wants a younger man, I'll deal with it then. For now, I'm happy. I'm not sweating it too much.
Q: That leads to my next question. Does the age difference spice up your physical relationship?
Q: The taboo --
D: Absolutely. And she reminds me of when I was younger and more into the fun, devil-may-care kind of naughtiness. So yes, it is attractive to me, absolutely.
Q: And you, Chris?
C: I don't know. Not so much for me.
D: You don't see it as a taboo kind of thing?
C: No, just as a relationship.
Q: Would you do it again?
D: It's an individual case. It's not about repeating a pattern or anything like that. I love her. The person could be older than me, or they could be younger than me. Would I make the effort if I thought that I felt something for someone who was much younger? Certainly. I wouldn't turn away from it just because of age. [Chris and I] just happen to connect. Had we not made that effort to be friends, I probably would never have considered [starting] a relationship with her.
Q: Is it harder than you thought it was going to be?
D: Sometimes. For instance, we went to Mother's Day with my family yesterday, and for a while there I was uncomfortable, and I know Chris was [too].
C: Oh, yes.
D: She was having a good time, but I could tell when she looked at me sometimes that she was uncomfortable. Part of that had to do with the fact that my soon-to-be ex-wife is so close to my family. And her best friend in the world is my sister-in-law, who was hosting the party. So, there are times when it is very difficult. But the times that it's not outweigh those.